This section of the News and Media Services department site tracks stories in print and broadcast media that feature Auggie faculty, students, and staff. The area also is home to material developed for University-related programs, events, and more.
Newsweek covered the Minnesota Urban Debate League’s 11th annual Mayors Challenge event in Minneapolis this week. The coverage is part of Mightier, a partnership with the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues to illustrate the ways in which debate strengthens the skills young people need to promote civil discourse in a multicultural democracy.
The Mayors Challenge is an annual event at which exceptional high school debaters show off their skills and engage with local and state political leaders before a crowd of supporters. MNUDL, a program of Augsburg University, provides resources and programming to support competitive academic debate for more than 1,000 students at 40 partner schools in the Twin Cities.
“After the event, Abdihafid Mohamed was glowing,” wrote reporter Lauren Giella. “Not only did he feel the adrenaline rush of speaking in front of 200 people, but he also achieved his goal of meeting new people and making connections. Even though his side lost the debate, he said he felt like a “famous celebrity.” He was overwhelmed with people congratulating him on a job well done and exchanging cards, emails and LinkedIns.
“The highlight of the program, he said, was talking face to face with Mayor Frey. Sharing the stage with Frey, Attorney General Ellison, the governor and the first lady made Mohamed feel like he could one day be a leader in his community.
“”Being part of this [MNUDL], seeing them all, means that we’re not far from each other,” he said. “I have the opportunity and possibility to be in their shoes.””
Augsburg University is the most ethnically diverse regional university in the Midwest, according to the U.S. News & World Report 2024 rankings. U.S. News & World Report also ranked Augsburg #2 in undergraduate teaching, #3 for both social mobility and innovation, and #17 overall among the regional universities in the Midwest this year.
To identify colleges where students are most likely to encounter undergraduates from racial or ethnic groups different from their own, U.S. News factors in the total proportion of students who identify as non-Hispanic African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, Asian, non-Hispanic white, and multiracial (two or more races), as well as the overall mix of groups. The data for this year’s rankings was drawn from each institution’s fall 2022 total undergraduate student body. The formula produces a diversity index that ranges from 0 to 1, with a high number indicating more diversity. Augsburg’s diversity index in this year’s ranking is 0.73.
In this year’s debate, four students will split into two teams and debate issues related to the 2023–24 national policy debate topic of economic inequality. This topic engages students nationwide about the role of the U.S. federal government in fiscal redistribution, including policy proposals like a federal jobs guarantee, expanding Social Security, and providing basic income.
The debate will take place in front of a community of local education supporters, including special guests Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Governor Tim Walz, First Lady Gwen Walz, and a VIP panel of economic policy experts.
Abdihafid Mohamed of Edison High School, Minneapolis, and Adai Truong of Central High School, Saint Paul, will argue the affirmative at the 11th annual Mayors Challenge event. They will face off against Lily St Dennis of Highland Park High School, Saint Paul, and Sabrena Thao of Tartan High School, Oakdale, arguing the negative. All are members of their schools’ debate teams, hosted by the Minnesota Urban Debate League.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison will receive the 2023 Champion of Change Award at the event. This award is given annually to a community changemaker who models courageous leadership and inspires students. Previous recipients include Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
Since 2012, the Mayors Challenge has brought together education advocates from across the Twin Cities to watch an empowering, informative showcase debate and invest in the future of urban debate. Debate has been shown to positively impact literacy, self-esteem, critical thinking, attendance, and test scores. Students who participate in debate develop the capacity to engage in civil disagreement and civil discourse, skills that are essential for citizenship in a multicultural democracy.
The Minnesota Urban Debate League is a program of Augsburg University that provides resources and programming to support competitive academic debate in Twin Cities high schools and middle schools. The mission of MNUDL is to empower students through competitive academic debate to become engaged learners, critical thinkers, and active global citizens who are effective advocates for themselves and their communities. Currently, MNUDL serves more than 1,000 students at 40 partner schools and has seen sustained growth in student participation since its inception in 2004, in programs including national topic policy debate, middle school debate, Spanish Debate League, East African Debate, Financial Literacy Leadership Debates, and MDAW Summer Speech & Debate Camp.
For more information, contact: Minnesota Urban Debate League, Amy Cram Helwich, (612) 359-6467, firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 95 Augsburg University undergraduate students were named to the 2023 Summer Semester Dean’s List. The Augsburg University Dean’s List recognizes those full-time students who have achieved a grade point average of 3.50 or higher and those part-time students who have achieved a grade point average of 3.75 or higher in a given term.
Augsburg University is proud to announce the winners of the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award, First Decade Award, and Spirit of Augsburg Award. These outstanding alumni will be recognized at a special ceremony and reception on October 13 as part of Augsburg’s 2023 homecoming and reunion weekend. Learn more about the 2023 alumni award winners.
Distinguished Alumni Award
The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes significant achievement in vocation, for outstanding contribution to church and community, and for a life that exemplifies the ideals and mission of Augsburg University. The 2023 honorees are:
Jan Nelson Meslin ’72, immigration justice activist and community organizer (Cayucos, CA)
James Rodde ’74, choral conductor and professor, Iowa State University (Ames, IA)
Devoney Looser ’89, author, Jane Austen scholar, and professor of English, Arizona State University (Phoenix, AZ)
Tsehai Wodajo ’97, social worker and founder, Resources for the Enrichment of African Lives (St. Paul, MN)
First Decade Award
The First Decade Award is presented to Augsburg graduates of the past 10 years who have made significant progress in their professional achievements and contributions to the community, and in so doing exemplify the mission of the university. The 2023 honorees are:
Kacie Lucchini Butcher ’13, public historian and director, Rebecca M. Blank Center for Campus History, University of Wisconsin—Madison (Madison, WI)
Andre Creighton ’19 MBA, co-founder and chief financial officer, TurnSignl (Buffalo, MN)
Spirit of Augsburg Award
The Spirit of Augsburg Award honors alumni and friends of the university who have given exceptional service that contributes substantially to the well-being of Augsburg by furthering its purposes and programs. The 2023 honoree is Paul Mueller ’84, Mayo Clinic Health System regional vice president, former Board of Regents member, and chair, Great Returns: We’re All In campaign (LaCrosse, WI).
The Star Tribune visited campus last week to spend some time with Associate Professor Joe Underhill and a handful of River Semester students as they sanded, primed, and assembled boats, part of final preparations to set sail down the Mississippi in early September.
“Instead of traveling to a foreign country, they’ll study on the Mississippi River, sailing, paddling, camping, taking classes and conducting research. The program, which launches this week, is open to college students across the country, and instructors say they know of no other quite like it,” reported the Star Tribune.
“The students will stop in places like St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans, meeting a wide variety of community organizers, researchers and other local residents along the way. They’ll talk about climate change, test water quality and measure biodiversity. They’ll learn how politics and racism affected development along the river — and how similar events are playing out today.”
River Semester is a program of Augsburg’s Center on Global Education and Experience, which also operates Augsburg University study centers in Africa, Europe, and Latin America with an emphasis on social justice and community engagement. CGEE provide global experiences for students, institutions for higher education, non-profit organizations, businesses, churches, and others.
Augsburg University has been named one of the top 30 colleges and universities for LGBTQ+ students, according to Campus Pride, the leading national organization dedicated to building future LGBTQ and ally leaders and creating safer communities at colleges and universities. Augsburg is the only institution from Minnesota to receive Campus Pride’s Best of the Best recognition in 2023.
“Earning a spot on Campus Pride’s Best of the Best list recognizes an institution’s efforts to create a safe and welcoming campus for their LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty,” said Campus Pride Founder, CEO and Executive Director Shane Mendez Windmeyer. “In the current climate, in which LGBTQ+ identities have become political talking points and laws are being weaponized against LGBTQ+ people, the commitment to creating campuses that welcome and protect LGBTQ+ students can not be taken for granted. The colleges and universities that made our list this year deserve this recognition for the efforts they have made and continue to make.”
Advising, advocacy, mentorship, and support for LGBTQIA+ -identified students;
Development of student knowledge and leadership skills;
Promoting awareness and visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community on campus;
Providing networking and social opportunities for the LGBTQIA+ and allied campus community;
Training students, staff, and faculty about gender and sexual equity to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment;
Advocating for change in policies, practices, and procedures across the campus to be more equitable to LGBTQIA individuals.
Two LGBTQIA+ student organizations, Queer Pride Alliance and Queer Indigenous People of Color, host a number of events for the Augsburg community throughout the year. At the annual Lavender Celebration, graduating LGBTQIA+ and ally students are honored with a rainbow cord to wear at commencement, and the community recognizes outstanding individuals for their work and contributions for queer and trans students at Augsburg.
Campus Pride’s 2023 Best of the Best LGBTQ-friendly list includes 30 four-year public and private colleges and universities from around the country. Each institution achieved 5 out of 5 stars and the highest percentage scores on the Campus Pride Index (CPI), the premier national benchmarking tool measuring LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices on college and university campuses. The Campus Pride Index rates colleges and universities based on self-reporting of LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs and practices, such as non-discrimination statements inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, gender affirming health care, LGBTQ+ peer mentorship programs, campus safety training on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBTQ-specific major and course offerings, and the presence of LGBTQ & ally student and faculty organizations. The full Campus Pride 2023 Best of the Best list is available online at CampusPride.org/BestoftheBest.
Teachers play an increasingly critical role in supporting mental health needs among children and youth. A new set of continuing education courses from Augsburg University aims to ensure that they have the resources and training to do so in a transformative and culturally responsive way.
The Certificate in Supporting Student Mental Health for K-12 Teachers, offered by Augsburg’s Center for Adult and Continuing Education, provides K-12 educators an equity-based approach to mental health, trauma, and social-emotional learning. Each self-paced, online, on-demand course meets state continuing education requirements for maintaining licensure.
The three modules can be taken individually (4 hours each) or altogether (12 hours total). Teachers who complete all three courses will receive the Supporting Student Mental Health for K-12 Teachers certificate.
Understanding Mental Health and Suicide Prevention provides an overview of the history of mental health care; signs and symptoms of mental illness in children and adolescents; how to recognize and minimize mental illness stigma; and resources available for teachers, students, families, and caregivers focused on recovery and suicide prevention.
Trauma-Informed Practices for K-12 Classrooms helps teachers build a foundation to create a safe learning space for students who have experienced chronic stress and trauma; recognize the symptoms of trauma and its relationship to mental illness; and promote healing in the classroom.
Transformative Social and Emotional Learning guides participants through a social and emotional learning framework that is rooted in equity, identity, belonging, and community justice. It is designed to help teachers move beyond teaching and modeling competencies to a place of reflective practice that focuses on examining educational conditions.
The series honors the legacy of the late Claudia Murray, a sophomore psychology major and midfielder on the Augsburg women’s soccer team who passed away unexpectedly in 2022. Generous support from the Murray family will provide a 50% discount to the first 100 participants.
“We were offered a beautiful opportunity with this gift and we aimed to create enriching courses by collaborating with both on and off campus experts,” said Jennifer Diaz, associate professor and chair of Augsburg’s Department of Education. “We are excited about what the courses have to offer educators working to value and meet students where they are across their diverse and complex lived experiences.”
Drawing on Augsburg’s outstanding faculty and centers of expertise, the Center for Adult and Continuing Education offers a growing number of live, online, and on-demand courses. For more information or to register, visit the CACE website.
The Augsburg Health Commons is expanding to bring its proven model of accompaniment-based care to more neighbors through new partnerships and locations.
Late last year, an agreement with M Health Fairview and Redeemer Center for Life formalized a partnership at the Living Room in the Harrison neighborhood of north Minneapolis, where a drop-in site based on the Health Commons model had operated since 2012. Following a disruption of in-person services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the site was re-opened in October 2022 under the leadership of Augsburg Physician Assistant Program Director Vanessa Bester.
This summer, the first Health Commons in St. Paul opened in the Conway Community Center through a partnership with M Health Fairview, the Sanneh Foundation, and the East Side Health & Well-Being Collaborative. Health Commons Executive Director Katie Clark and Augsburg Board of Regents Chair Dennis Meyer will join St. Paul community leaders on August 16 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Health Commons East.
“Our nursing and physician assistant faculty, along with our students, are committed to the vision of a drop-in center that focuses on the needs of the communities we serve to address health inequities and other deep-rooted issues faced when seeking care,” said Augsburg President Paul C. Pribbenow. “Augsburg is especially pleased to extend our efforts to the East Side St. Paul neighborhood.”
Augsburg’s Health Commons sites are health-focused drop-in centers led and organized by nursing and physician assistant faculty members, Augsburg students, volunteers, and community members. Developed by Augsburg nursing faculty in the early 1990s, the Health Commons model is founded on principles of hospitality and relationship development that leads to transcultural understanding and health benefits for all participants.
The people who come to the Health Commons are from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and many are unhoused or marginally housed. Health concerns might include nutrition, medication, stress management, respiratory conditions, injuries, skin problems, and chronic disease such as diabetes and hypertension. Everyone is welcome, and all services are provided free of charge, without proof of need or time constraints.
Augsburg’s PA program has taken on a growing role as new partnerships and locations have developed. The PA program has led the expansion of services at the Cedar-Riverside Health Commons, connecting with community members providing foot care, a need across many marginalized communities.
“The PA program is humbled and honored to bring the model of accompaniment-based care into our curriculum and medical practice. Faculty, staff and students are able to build connections, meet people where they are at in their health journey, and learn how health inequities are impacting the people we care for every day. The Harrison neighborhood, Cedar-Riverside, Central Lutheran, and now East St. Paul are the paradigm of what providing health and care should look like in every community,” said Bester.
A leader in the collegiate recovery movement for more than 25 years, StepUP® at Augsburg University is now poised to reach more students through new partnerships with Twin Cities-area colleges and universities. Minnesota Public Radio recently featured StepUP Director Ericka Otterson, Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator Nell Hurley, and Ethan Laugen ’24 in a story about the need for recovery support in higher education.
StepUP provides an array of support services for students in recovery, including sober living college experience in Oren Gateway Center, weekly meetings with alcohol and drug counselors, and access to a strong alumni network. With new partnerships forming post-COVID-19, including a formal agreement with the University of St. Thomas, these resources will be available to more students from across the Twin Cities metro.
“There’s no shortage of need, and students time and again will say the community has been the most valuable aspect of participating in this program,” Otterson told MPR. “So the larger the community is each year, the more opportunity there is for that.”
“This is my community,” said Laugen. “Instead of a student group or a frat, it’s StepUP. These are my people who get me, who understand me, who I get along with. And it has given me the college experience in the way that I needed a college experience.”